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DOJ Moves to Expand Marijuana Research Beyond Ole Miss

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor

The marijuana growing field at UM was last planted in 2014. Photo by Don Stanford/Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences. 

The Department of Justice announced Monday that it looks to expand marijuana growers for the purpose of federally authorized cannabis research beyond the confines of the University of Mississippi.

The field located adjacent to the campus is managed by the University of Mississippi and was planted in 2014; however, the Drug Enforcement Administration began accepting additional applications in 2016 for “growers to register with them to produce and distribute marijuana for research purposes,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

On Monday, the DEA made notice it would begin to act on those applications.

In the files that the DEA submitted it looks to act on 33 of the applications for the purpose of overseeing the production of marijuana “for scientific and medical research under DEA registration.”

The University of Mississippi has been the only institution that has held federal contracts with the NIDA allowing the production of the plant in recent years; however, the NIDA has supplied marijuana to researchers through the NIDA Drug Supply Program for approximately 40 years.

Dr. Sue Sisley, who heads the Scottsdale Research Institute in Arizona, which studies cannabis, said to National Public Radio (NPR) that this contract has created a “monopoly.”

Sisley filed a lawsuit in June demanding the DEA move forward with her respected institution among the others who applied. In the filed lawsuit, it states that her research must be done with federally-sourced cannabis, which exclusively comes from the University of Mississippi; however, upon its arrival to the Scottsdale Research Institution, the cannabis was “tainted” and “sub-par.”

However, the manager of marketing and communications for the school of pharmacy, Sydney Slotkin DuPriest, referred Hottytoddy.com to the press office of NIDA regarding the accusation made in the lawsuit.

The NIDA stated to Hottytoddy.com that during the past 40 years of supplying researchers with marijuana that its supplies have been “without any known health consequences from contaminants,” which would include Ole Miss’ production. 

It also stated that all plant materials contain mold and yeast, which naturally occur in the air and soil.

“The marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi is stored under controlled conditions to preserve its purity and stability and once sent out, instructions are provided to researchers regarding proper storage of the cannabis at their laboratories,” NIDA stated.

The NIDA stated it does support the DEA’s 2016 decision to expand the number of farms to grow marijuana for research purposes.

The DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon made a statement Monday that the department is making progress registering additional marijuana growers for federally authorized research.

Dhillon stated the DEA will work with other federal entities to expedite the process.

“We support additional research into marijuana and its components, and we believe registering more growers will result in researchers having access to a wider variety for study,” Dhillon stated.

Attorney General William P. Barr. also stated he is pleased that the DEA is finally moving forward in reviewing the applicants who want to help grow marijuana for the purpose of federally authorized research.

“The Department of Justice will continue to work with our colleagues at the Department of Health and Human Services and across the Administration to improve research opportunities wherever we can,” Barr stated.

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